From the time I was a seedling, I wanted to be something worthwhile. Every day I stretched higher, farther, reaching for the sun to bathe my leaves in life giving photosynthesis.
My life in the forest ended when soldiers wearing helmets, red cloaks and armor cut me down.
I hoped the soldiers would form me into an honorable, useful item, like a fine chair, magnificent bed, or maybe a grand formal dining table. I would’ve even been satisfied to be a powerful support post in a house or mansion holding it all up.
Instead, their axes hacked me into a long, rough beam. Still, I hoped.
They loaded me in a wagon and hauled me to a city. There they cut off a smaller beam from my top, notched a side to fit over the beam, and secured my pieces with long spikes and rope.
A crowd formed. Many people were screaming and angry. Others sat and quietly wept.
From the carefully guarded conversations, I heard whispers about a man they said was innocent. He’d done nothing worthy of punishment, certainly not of death. Yet still they yelled louder, angry and hostile.
A wave of panic hit me, quickly followed by a futile sense of loss and shame. I was this man’s cross! I would never be anything, not of worth, for I was fashioned into an instrument of death!
Soon the wounded man appeared, bound and shoved by the same soldiers who cut me down. They pushed him face down in the dry dust beside me.
He was a bloody mess. Parts of his beard were pulled from his face. His lips were bleeding, eyes swelling. He had been scourged, and his back was merely a collage of red ribbon flesh with no skin firmly intact.
A soldier yelled at him to pick me up and carry me. I didn’t think he would even be able to stand, but he did. When he reached to pick me up, a soldier on each side lifted me, and dropped my weight so it plopped on his back and shoulders.
When his wounded flesh touched me, the man writhed in pain. I did too.
Something about this man made me hurt far worse than anything I’d ever imagined. Far worse than being chopped down. Far worse than being skinned into a beam.
The very touch of this man made my fibers weep, deeply weep. It was if his agony contained all of the wrongs of mankind.
He winced, took a step, then another, another. He teetered at times, as if the weight of everything on him was unbearable, but then somehow he would take another step.
I shuddered as his blood begin to mingle with my sap.
~~ Years ago, when I was a small tree, a young boy traveling through the forest with family and friends walked by. The Boy stopped, right in front of me, and looked up at me intently. His eyes narrowed, as if He was looking far away into the galaxies. He gently ran His hand across my bark. It felt like He was nourishing me.
Something about the Boy made me dream beyond the forest. I began to hope that one day my wood would be formed into an object of honor and great value. It’s like His gentle little touch gave me a vision beyond myself, one in which I felt destined for great purpose. ~~
Each step He took drug my base through the dirt, but then we came to a road of stone through town. Every time my base drug over the edge of the large stones in the roadway, it would jar the Man’s back and shoulders. Each step, in and of itself, was torturous.
After a number of stumbles and falls, He physically couldn’t lift me. I wanted to be light, to be a feather, but it was as if my weight was the lightest thing upon His shoulders.
The soldiers grabbed a man from the crowds and forced him to carry me. We were led outside the city to a hill with a rocky side, a place of the skull they call Golgotha.
The Man was managing to stand, until a soldier pushed Him down toward me on the ground. As He laid in the dirt, the Man’s sorrowful eyes looked at me, narrowing, as if He were looking galaxies away. His hand gently touched my hewn side, and it felt like He were nourishing, comforting me.
It was as if He was telling me I was fulfilling my purpose, as an instrument of death, but still destined for a great purpose of life.
The man groaned in pain when the soldiers grabbed His hands and feet and threw Him on me.
Two men dressed in religious garments came and stood peering down on us. They appeared clean on the outside, but full of venom inside. They piously coaxed Him, telling Him to confess His blasphemy, and His suffering would be shortened.
It was the strangest thing. In the middle of the overwhelming burden and pain I felt from this Man, I also felt a massive, beyond explanation, sense of mercy and forgiveness from Him toward the two religious men. They continued to scoff, looking down their noses at Him before arrogantly walking away.
The centurion barked at the soldiers to get on with it. They grabbed His wrist, placed a spike between the tendons, and the hammer fell. The blow pushed the spike through His wrist into my wood.
The hammer fell again, and again.
Each blow drove the spike deeper into my wood, driving as it were into the hardness of the heart, breaking away calloused darkness for freedom in the light.
The man twisted in pain, but made no effort to escape. He didn’t resist when the soldiers grabbed his other wrist, then his feet, and nailed spikes through Him, into me. He simply, let them.
It was as if all of life, past, present, and future was being hung as a picture on the wall with this as the pivotal point in time. Blow by blow secured the place, the battle, the purpose, and ultimately the hope, from which all mankind could measure time, and life.
When they raised me up and dropped my end into a hole, the thud in the ground jerked His body causing Him to recoil in pain.
He had to lift his weight on the spike in His feet just for a breath of air.
When He was scourged, each strike of the multiple edged whip had sunk barbs into the flesh on His back. The soldier would then move to the side and jerk his arms so the barbs ripped deep through His skin and flesh.
His shredded back was opened, without mercy, from a cat of nine tails. Now every breath was an agony of pain. His back, a bloody mess of jell, slid up and down my rough wood for just a gasp.
Several of my splinters broke into His flesh as he struggled to breath, and with each one, I mourned the pain I caused.
Blood from His wrist dribbled on the ground from my crosspiece. Blood from his back and feet ran down my beam puddling where my wood and His blood met the dirt, forming blood mud, sprinkled with His sweat and tears.
He hung for hours, but it seemed like eternity.
At the end, past the time which would have killed most men, He made a final push up on the spike in His feet to gulp air. With His last breath He clearly spoke, “It is finished.”
His voice fell silent. His body went limp. The entirety of His weight, the weight of all of creation, rested on the three nails pounded into my wood.
The centurion over the soldiers looked up at Him and said what I had already come to understand, “Surely, He was the Son of God”.
I only knew a tiny fraction, an iota of His pain, but I did, in part, share it with Him. It’s distressfully shameful to be His instrument of death, one which seems unforgiveable.
Yet even then, I believe He extended the same mercy and forgiveness to me, to all, that He extended to the two religious men.
Three days later, He arose.
Because of that I’m no longer just an instrument of death. Instead, I’m a symbol of hope, faith and everlasting life.
I’ve long since decayed, but still I’m stretching higher, farther, always reaching for the Son light.